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Peter J. Claus pclaus at
Mon Dec 2 14:49:50 UTC 1996

Date: December 2, 1996 
Indology List
indology at
Dear Members
Frank writes: "my sense has been that many, perhaps
most, graduate students AND faculty who are in
disciplines such as Anthropology, History and Political
Science, have regarded language instruction as merely
an instrumental means toward an end."
Indeed.  And their attitude toward their language
teaching colleagues is often revealed inadequate
language skills, too.  Gone is the pride in being able
to speak a South Asian language (whatever its size)
with real fluency.  Gone, too, in many of the
disciplines is the need.  Many graduate student
perceive that the real language skills they need to get
through is in their discipline's discourse. 

Where the root of the problem may lie is that over the
past several decades, at some, not all, American
universities, there has been an erosion of the sense of
common interests between South Asianists located in
their separate departments.  Frank also alludes to
this: "I think there is also an additional need for
whole understanding, and that is a continued
exploration of literature and other cultural
expressions, which may well be researched by faculty
who are appointed to teach languages." But I don't see
this as contradictory a goal as Frank does. 
One of the arguments that our deans are looking for in
requests for new faculty is the ability to fill the
needs of several departments at once.  South Asianist
may have to fight harder with their disciplinary
colleagues to get them to support South Asian language

positions even if it means some small sacrifices (eg. a
fraction of a position) from their departments.  I
sympathisize with the fact that with declining
enrollments in South Asia courses in departments many
South Asia specialist feel they are in a weak position
to argue, but it is easier for them to do so on
academic grounds than it is for others.  And when it
comes time for tenure decisions (are these in our
future still?) the need for language teachers has to be
argued vehemently in letters of support from the
disciplines.  Often faculty in the social sciences and
humanities have considerable clout with the
On the other hand, the language faculty have to do
their part in demonstrating the value of their presence
on campus.  I have a feeling most do, but there is need
for constant re-examination of their role in the larger
South Asia program.  If they allow themselves to become
too specialized it is more understandable that they
should loose their academic support base.
I know all of this sounds awfully idealistic and old-
fashioned, and maybe even wrong-headed from some
ideological perspectives, but that is a matter for a
different discussion.  In fact, I am somewhat surprised
no one has alluded to the directional changes away from
area studies altogether which have been made at the
level of the Social Science Research Council and the
American Council of Learned Societies (see the last
several issues of _Items_).
Peter J. Claus                        
fax: (510) 704-9636
pclaus at

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